I grew up in the South, and I love grits. I'll eat plain grits (the kind you get in a diner, cooked in water, with a pool of melted butter on top), but I prefer them dressed up. When I was a teenager, my stepmother used to make a baked casserole of garlic cheese grits for brunch, and I loved that.
I didn't have "polenta" until I was a grown-up (or reasonable facsimile thereof), but there's not much difference. Strictly speaking, grits are from corn that has been treated with lye to make hominy, which is then ground. Polenta is just ground corn. Whatever.
I've been craving polenta ever since Sheri and I had lunch at Asti, and my choice was a toss-up between the risotto and the polenta. They have excellent polenta bowls, but since I'd had that on another visit, I went with the risotto. Can't go wrong either way, even if Frommer's does call the risotto "unexciting". What do they know?
Anyway, on a recent episode of Good Eats, Alton Brown demonstrated a method for making polenta that is excellent because it cooks in the oven. No standing over the stove, stirring bubbling polenta that is spitting at you. Hey, was that an All-Clad 3 qt. covered saute pan he used? That's what I used and it worked beautifully.
I ate one bowl. Mmm, comfort food! I spread the rest into a sheet pan to firm up. I'll cut it into triangles and grill it for some other meal.
- Savory Polenta (Alton Brown)